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Report: The Fresh Market

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Well, I’ve had a little good blogging news this week–I have a number of new followers on WordPress! Welcome to my humble little blog, which I do little to promote at the moment, and consists of opinions, observations, recipes, and a whole lot of what I think of as wisdom. You, however, may call it something else–but please, keep it clean. This is a family blog. Swearing is reserved for driving around Houston, particularly during our long, hot summers.

So today our Fresh Market opened up, and finally, we get a little more gourmet in the Houston area known as Clear Lake. We’re near the NASA facility, and up until recently, was a thriving space community. The space program is, for the most part, winding down, and the population is doing the same thing. While space program people are mostly moving away to jobs in other parts of the city, for some reason there is some serious building going on. Fresh Market is part of that. Although we have Kroger, Randall’s and some very nice HEB stores, we have a hard time finding some gourmet items in this part of Houston–despite our diverse population.

And now, we have Fresh Market. Woo hoo! I hope they stick around.

There are a couple more of these stores in Houston, namely the one in the Post Oak area that I have forgotten to stop into when I have been in town. It’s not exactly near the Montrose Trader Joe’s, but I could have gone once or twice. Now that ours is open, I’m glad I stopped in. I went at 8:00 pm, because I figured all the free samples would be gone and I wouldn’t be tempted. I was right. I am trying to avoid sugar all week, in fact, completely. I had some coffee and a small cup of orange juice (which I normally only drink on airplanes.)

Let me iterate that I didn’t spend a lot of money this evening. I have gone to Half Price Books this week three times to sell some books, so I had some cash on me. It wasn’t a fortune, but then again, I didn’t spend too much, either–even though I could have easily spent $100 more. (Ask Neighbor K, she knows!)  When I start working again, I might buzz over and drop $100. But I’m not in need of that much of anything right now.

First up: you can get a cup of coffee for $1, all day, any day. (This is great, since the GER won’t go into Starbucks, and he can stop there if he wants some good coffee, not the rotgut from his local petrol station.) I had a sample of their decaf Kona, which was wonderful, but before that, a sample cup of hazelnut–which, unfortunately, was not decaf. Oops! Good thing I didn’t drink a whole 8 ounce cup. So it’s a nice place to stop for a coffee if you’re not near Starbucks or don’t want to go in with the crowd. Fresh Market also sells their own brand of bulk coffee for $11.99 a pound, every day. The hazelnut was wonderful, and so was the Kona. They also have almond amaretto, which I think I saw in decaf. I’ve got plenty of coffee for now, and I hardly drink it, mostly I drink tea these days. But a half pound of decaf hazelnut might be on my first big trip over there.

Oh, but this is one I’m not sure I’d be trying even if I was on the regular:

And look--it's on sale!

And look–it’s on sale!

My favorite flavored coffee is, not surprisingly, chocolate raspberry. Non-flavored, Kenya AA and Sumatra coffees. Caramel Pear? Oh, I don’t know about that. But hey, what I think smells like Raid is going to smell like heaven to the lady standing next to me.

Speaking of tea–you’ve probably seen PG Tips tea in your local grocery store, but have you ever seen PG Tips in decaf in your grocery store? Me either, until now.

PG Tips in Decaf

Um, no, I don’t belong to the Cuppa Club.

Fresh Market has 40-bag boxes of PG Tips Decaf tea in their regular tea section, along with most other teas you can find most places. YES!! I’ve been ordering it for 3 years now from Amazon.com. It’s so good. I grew up with Lipton tea, and after a British lady introduced me to it, I bought a box from HEB. Delicious tea, #1 in Britain, but the regular has so much caffeine. The decaf has all the flavor and none of the caffeine, thank heavens. And now I can get it in Clear Lake.

Another thing I got is another box of Maldon Salt, the flaky stuff from the UK that’s also enjoyed by many chefs and foodies. The box I bought three or four years ago is nearly empty, but if you go to Williams Sonoma to buy it, it’s expensive. Right now on their website, it’s $10.95 a box, but I think it’s like $12 or $13 in the store. In Fresh Market, it’s $3.99. Of course I bought some! I’ll use more of it too.

Saltandfrozenveg

Ordinary frozen veg, but good enough for today. And nice wooden floors, too.

Limes are 2 for $1 there, but they’re high everywhere; I’ll try HEB or Food Town soon. I did get a couple of super-sized lemons and two nice grapefruit, as well as a small container of their store-brand half and half for coffee and tea. Their milk products are not treated with rBGH, but not all organic; HEB does the same thing. There is a fair amount of USDA certified organic product, but there are also containers of Cool Whip in the freezer next to the organic frozen fruit.

I know, they have to appeal to a wide range of folks, but anybody who puts Cool Whip on organic fruit of any kind just needs to head over to Wal-Mart and stay there. (That was my snarky opinion coming out.)

Oh, and speaking of dairy, they also have their own store brand of refrigerated almond milk! I’ll try that another day.

You know I was looking for this, and sure enough, they do gluten-free.

A good selection of gluten-free products, not only here, but in the freezer case as well.

A good selection of gluten-free products, not only here, but in the freezer case as well.

They’ve even got their own house brand of gluten-free products, and as you can see, they’re marked as such so it’s easy to find, and there are many products located in different parts of the store. However, as Dr. William Davis warns in Wheat Belly, much of it is made from corn flour, rice flour, tapioca flour, and other ingredients that have a high carb content and can give you an insulin spike. So, that’s something to take into consideration; you must read the labels.

If you like chutney and fancier versions of peanut butter and jelly, you’re in luck, they’ve got lots of it:

Whatever your heart desires here.

Whatever your heart desires here.

And then inspiration struck (or maybe it was the coffee.) There’s a recipe called Rapid Ragu in Nigella Express that I put off making until recently because I couldn’t find something called onion confit. I did find it a few months ago, in Central Market, but at $10 a jar, this imported French stuff that doesn’t last in the fridge too long isn’t practical to keep around (and it’s more on Amazon!)  However, while I didn’t buy it this time, I wonder if this will do the trick, and I can get it at Fresh Market for a lot less:

A possible replacement for hard-to-find Onion Confit?

A possible replacement for hard-to-find Onion Confit?

I’ll get it when I start working and I can drop the occasional $100 at the grocery store again. Not today–the recipe also calls for ground lamb, which is, shall we say, more than ground beef. I can wait for it, as well as another gluten-free cupcake from Frost Bake Shoppe.

And for the “I don’t have time to cook” crowd, a little shortcut:

Wash the jars and get rid of the labels and no one will ever know. . . .

Wash the jars and get rid of the labels and no one will ever know. . . .

In addition to many familiar products, they also have a fair amount of stuff you might not see in your regular grocery store, unless your regular grocery store is Korean:

I have never had a Korean mother-in-law.

I have never had a Korean mother-in-law.

Again, as wide of a range as you can get. I think I’ve had it once, and like sushi, was quite enough. I’m not slamming anyone’s cuisine–but I’ll pass on this kind of thing, OK? I grew up in New Orleans, lived in California in the 80’s and acquired a taste for Mexican food, and have been in Texas for 15 years, love the barbeque. Kimchi just isn’t for me, that’s all, and I’m just reporting.

Don’t judge me, I only took a picture and didn’t purchase any:

I have no idea what they will do, and I don't wanna flunk a drug test!!

I have no idea what they will do, and I don’t wanna flunk a drug test.

Another section nearby this one has olive oils left and right. But I just know everyone is waiting on pins and needles to find this.

Just in case you really, really, need to know about this stuff.

Just in case you really, really, need to know about this stuff.

No, I didn’t buy any of this, either. Heck, I didn’t even pick it up to see if it was imported from Italy, France, Greece or Croatia. Maybe if I invite a sophisticated gentleman for dinner.

The GER couldn’t care less if it was this stuff or Wesson. He’s nice like that.

Now, folks who know me know about my grocery bag collection–I’ve got several from East Coast chain Publix, HEB, Central Market, import store Phoenicia, Safeway, Trader Joe’s,and a bunch of other places in between. Fresh Market has some insulated tote bags like the one I got from Trader Joe’s a while back, but not as big. I passed on theirs as well as these, but I almost gave in.

Aren't these cute?

Aren’t these cute?

This is, obviously, for buying bulk goods so you don’t need the plastic bags. Again, I passed on them, but there will be a day where I get a few. Not only are they reusable for shopping, there’s probably a few things I can use them for at home..

Even Jezebel the step-kitty got a little something:

OK, she didn't mess with the salt.

OK, she didn’t get any of the salt.

I’ve never bought Newman’s Own cat food, in fact, I didn’t know they had it, and I’ve never t ever seen it. That one, as you can see on the far left of the picture, is USDA certified organic. The one on the right isn’t, not that I saw, but since it was rabbit, I bought it as a treat for Jezebel. I put out half a can, and she went after it. I’ll give her the other half tomorrow, and save the Newman’s Own for another day. Both, as you can see, are also grain free, which I try to buy much as I can. I’ve also given her some cat food from Trader Joe’s that she likes, but this stuff is grain free. (Normally, it’s Fancy Feast; the vet’s office feeds that to their boarded cats.)

Wish I could have given some of this to Catmandu, but he did get Blue Buffalo duck a few times. On the other hand, as fussy as he was, he might not have eaten the rabbit. Jezebel appreciates the good food, but she’s now enjoyed samples of my cooking as well to the point where I can’t make a cup of tea without her demanding to be given some. She nearly climbed in my lap the other day when I was eating some chicken. My bad.

Now, this is an interesting site at the checkout lane:

What a good idea for impulse buys!

What a good idea for at-the-checkout items!

Although Fresh Market has a collection of natural toiletries like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods does, this is a great idea on the way out. Well priced and convenient, I like this the best out of all the stores I’ve been in. I have plenty of lip balm and hand sanitizer at the moment, so I didn’t get any. But when I run low, I know where to go, because I try to keep hand cream and hand sanitizer in all my bags, including my purse, just in case. And the lip balm is less than Burt’s Bees–good, since summer isn’t waiting for anyone (except way up north, where some of my friends report a wind chill factor this week.)

Oh, I forgot to to mention the deli, bakery, meat department and the dining area at the front of the store! DUH–and I didn’t take any pictures of those, either. Sorry about that–I should have at least glanced at their takeout. (I did see sushi.) You can get some lunch or coffee and have it at a table and chairs, much like Central Market in Houston. It’s a smaller area than Central Market’s but quite nice.

The only bad thing I can say about Fresh Market is they don’t carry those Mynts that I love from Trader Joe’s, but I think I can live with that. I’m stocked up for a while, and I’m sure I’ll be at Trader Joe’s again one day. Plus, I can order them from Amazon if I really need some.

Verdict: a pretty good gourmet place to shop!

Their store is about the size of Trader Joe’s, not real big like Central Market or Publix. While they have a fair amount of store-brand product, they also carry a fair amount of national brands, too, along with some imported things. I can see myself spending some money in there and saving money on petrol in the future, or at least in for some takeout or a forgotten item one day.

If you’re lucky enough to get one of these in your neighborhood, go during their grand opening if you want to sample all kinds of stuff. If not, do what I did and wait until 8:00 pm (they close at 9:00 pm.)

Note: even The Woodlands doesn’t have one of these, although they have Trader Joe’s. But even the New Orleans area has four of them, one on St. Charles Avenue; traffic must be a bear.

Ours is next to the Lifeway Christian Store across from Baybrook mall, just behind Zoe’s Kitchen–another new addition to our area, which I should write a review for soon. I’ve enjoyed food from Zoe’s a few times, although not in a while. Neighbor K likes them too; she visited the one in San Antonio when they opened a couple of years ago. Heck, if you’ve got a Zoe’s in your neighborhood, you’re lucky on that one as well.

Happy Dining!!

Chicken Chili Sunday

Happy Sunday, Dear Readers!

If you’re in Houston, or in the New Orleans area, you’ve probably got your air conditioner back on. I had jeans on earlier and put shorts on when I got home from Kroger. DUH. It’s our OCD weather. Here in Houston, we’ll have chances of rain and another cooling front next week. Will it freeze? Not according to what I saw, but who knows? Sometimes, not even the National Weather Service does, so we just wait and see. They do their best, but you know the old saying, “Man plans, God laughs.” Mother Nature’s like that, too.

If you’re in an area where it’s still freezin’ cold, I’ve got a recipe for you today. Takes a little while, but worth it. Keep reading. VERY delicious, and perfect for cold days.

So, did you OD on chocolate for Valentine’s Day? Did you get your honey a little something nice, or make a great meal? (You didn’t get a “payday loan” to get it, did you?)  I had some hot chocolate, and yesterday, I finally made some yeast-free brownies . I just wanted some, that’s all. I went to Kroger today and didn’t even bother with my usual Sunday treat, a dark chocolate Mounds candy bar–the coconut pieces drenched in chocolate.

Oh, and SOOOOO much red stuff on sale today–candy, stuffed animals, cutesy things, you name it. I saw floral arrangements of every kind with markdown stickers on them. However, I’m not sure why they were trying to sell arrangements with dead flowers in them. Maybe they were just too busy to get rid of them. Unless there’s a market for dead flowers I’m not aware of.

There’s a whole lot of this modern world I’m not aware of. I started to realize this point many years ago when I went out with a guy to a downtown club one night and he asked me point blank after a glass of wine and his second beer if I had any tattoos anywhere. EEEWWWWW!!!  I thought he was thoroughly nuts to ask me that, but later I realized young women started getting tattoos, usually hidden at that time. Not me!! (And yes, he is thoroughly nuts.)  I was told a couple of years later that I should “get over” my aversion to tattoos. Yeah. No, I still don’t have any. Just a number of scars from different injuries (oops!)

Anyway. . . .

Hey, get a load of this weird lime I cut today:

How did they do that?

How did they do that?

Wonder if I can capitalize on it. Nevermind, I already squeezed into a glass of water.

So a couple of weeks ago, neighbor K gave me a pack of chicken tenders, that, quite frankly, don’t fit in the freezer. This was my main motivation for wanting to make Chicken Chili from Barefoot Contessa Parties, but also since I hadn’t had it in a long time. And through a series of events, I finally got the stuff made.

Last time I made this dish I ended up fobbing some off to both neighbor K and neighbor R, because it made SUCH a huge amount. This time, by default, I halved it. I wrote down TWO of each color of the bell peppers, not four, but bought four cans of the tomatoes. Oh, and the tomatoes had basil already in it, but of course I didn’t realize this point and bought basil anyway. More on that later.

K’s packet of chicken tenders yielded 11 pieces, and the recipe calls for 4 chicken breasts. I guess it’s about the same. Rubbed them with some olive oil and sprinkled on some salt/pepper/garlic powder seasoning and roasted them in about 20 minutes or so. While that cooled, I was workin’ the stove.

Chicken tenders.jpg

The recipe starts out with a LOT of chopped onion. If anyone I had called while I was doing this, they would have thought I was crying. I used up some golf-ball sized onions from the fridge that another neighbor gave me from his brother’s garden. Then I went to the soft-ball sized onions. That big food processor got USED today.

So you cook the onions for about 15 minutes, then add the minced garlic. Then the huge pile of chopped bell peppers.

You know these are delicious, right?

You could eat these whole, couldn’t you?

You know how when you are in your own kitchen alone, you can lick the beaters? Well, this is the same principle–when I work with big peppers like this one, I slice the tops off first to get the center and seeds out (like the one on the far left) and that sliced off top is MINE. Do NOT touch my tops. I have to make sure that the pepper tastes right, and darnit, it’s the cook;s privilege. So don’t mess with it. . .or else.

Incidentally, that green cutting board with the hole in it is a new thing, and I got one right after Christmas when I was in The Woodlands. I think the pictures from that day have been lost (don’t ask) but I sure did enjoy using this cutting board and have tossed out a couple that were long overdue to be discarded.

The Zeal Non-Slip Board To Pan Cutting Board is big, a little heavy, has some rubber along the bottom, and a hole in one corner. An unusual design from Britain, it allows you to cut to your heart’s content and then dump everything into a bowl, pot, or whatever. I thought it was a bit odd when I saw it, but it was on sale (of course) and I got one. I love this cutting board! Just don’t tip stuff the wrong way, and you’ll be fine, right?

Anyway. . .

Then the two cans of tomatoes, buzzed through a food processor once or twice, and added to the pan to cook.

These were ten cents more than the regular canned tomatoes.

These were ten cents more than the regular canned tomatoes.

Can you see the crime scene starting in my kitchen?

Halfway done.

Halfway done.

Don’t worry, I wiped it up right after I took the picture.

So you cook this tomato-laden pot for about 30 minutes, and the peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic and basil melt together and get sweet. The chicken should be cool enough to handle by now (even if you used bone-in breast pieces), so it’s chopped into 3/4 inch pieces.

This is what the tenders looked like after I chopped them. 4 breast pieces might yield a little more.

This is what the tenders looked like after I chopped them. 4 breast pieces might yield a little more.

The chopped chicken is then dumped into the pot, and cooked for 20 more minutes.

The original recipe makes 12 servings, but the one I linked to halves that recipe to 6 servings. But, go figure, it made seven servings, and now I can enjoy this delicious recipe until next Saturday.

This recipe made seven big servings. Packed up the rest for the week.

This recipe made seven big servings. Packed up the rest for the week.

Yum!

Now, I didn’t realize I didn’t need the basil, and it’s a too much trouble to bring it back to Kroger, so I did the next best thing.

Fresh basil. Two for something, I think.

Fresh basil. Two for something, I think.

Think I’ve got enough for pesto?

20140216-172845.jpg

Well, I made some. Had everything on hand, whizzed it up in the blender, and it’s packed and stashed in the freezer.

If the cops ever investigate my freezer, they’ll be asking about all that pesto. But–what could be wrong with pesto? I’m not losing any sleep over it. Long as I have peas in the freezer, I’ll be having Pea & Pesto Soup. A lot.

The dishwasher is finished, the trash has been taken out, and I need to wrap it up soon.

If you’re cold, stay warm. If you’re warm, stay cool. And have something good to eat.

Happy Sunday!

Easy dinner for two (or more, if you like)

Afternoon, Dear Readers:

Here in Houston, the weather has warmed up, the clouds are gone and it’s a lovely day. I say that not to make anyone jealous, but to remind you that winter always turns to spring. Eventually.

Y’all, it just dawned on me that I didn’t recommend anything for Valentine’s Day dinner. DUH.

Sure, you could go out to dinner. Have you ever tried to get a reservation for Valentine’s Day? No, I don’t mean Golden Corral. . . Jack In The Box is usually open. So is Carl’s Jr., if you have one in your area–they have sweet potato fries!

Or just go out and find a place to eat. You’ll be elbow-to-elbow with all the other star-crossed lovers. Forget that!  Make dinner for your sweetie–but don’t go overboard. You need something easy that won’t take long. So here you go.

One of my newest favorite foods is cannellini beans. You know, the white kidney beans, usually from Italy. They are SOOOO good. I have a number of recipes calling for them, but my absolute favorite is, once again, from Nigella Lawson. It’s a simple white bean mash that can take the place of mashed potatoes and tastes so much better.

Thing is, you have to do it exactly as the recipe states. However, I’ve fiddled with it a bit to make it just for lunch. I’ll explain that in a minute.

Tonight, if you can get some nice little steaks and three cans of cannellini beans, (don’t forget olive oil, lemon and garlic) you’re all set–just make sure dessert is delicious, too. (It does not have to be chocolate, OK?) You make the beans first, then cook up the steaks and squeeze the lemon into the hot pan to deglaze it. The most time it takes is for making the bean mash. You can find the entire recipe here.

A steak dinner on Valentine’s Day? Of course!

Now, I have, on a couple of occasions, accidentally bought those little great white beans, or whatever they are called, because I simply grabbed the wrong can. This is easy when you buy Goya, because the cans all look alike. Darnit. They work, but are not as tasty as the cannellini.

Since my job ended on January 31, I’ve been eating white bean mash nearly every day. Why? I love it! With turkey, meatloaf, or whatever I feel like cooking up, it’s simple. And I also figured out how to make it in the microwave.

Rinse one can of beans and dump it in a microwave safe bowl; preferably one like a Grab-It with rounded sides and wide. Add to it a goodly amount of olive oil (maybe 1/8 cup, just eyeball it), and grate in a clove of garlic and some lemon zest (one small or half a large.) Microwave it until it’s hot. Take it out (put it on something heat-safe) and get a wide, flat spoon (a round wooden one works great) and mash to your heart’s content. Taste, and dd a bit of salt if you think you need it (mine always do) and mash until you get the same nubbly consistency, or it’s good enough for one person to devour.

I took that to work many times. Now that I’m not working, I just need to make sure I keep cannellini beans in the pantry.

That’s all for now.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and Enjoy!

Comfort food, anyone?

Good evening, Dear Readers:

I’m kind of tired tonight, but last night I hit the bed early and actually got some sleep. Not all night, woke up a couple of times, and I really appreciated Jezebel the step-kitty’s insistence that I do some laundry today. Especially the duvet. Especially after her early-morning retching.

So I’m a bit tired. But I thought I’d offer some comfort to you this evening.

Today on The Food Network was quite a bit of what’s called “comfort foods.” The Barefoot Contessa had things like “Midnight Spaghetti” and “Sunday Morning Oatmeal,” as well as from another chef, “Kimchi Fried Rice,” which included the Korean delicacy, rice, and a fried egg on top. Trisha Yearwood brought husband Garth Brooks into the kitchen, making very sophisticated and un-countrified food. The Pioneer Woman had a great looking beef stew and some creamy, cheesey grits. I haven’t had grits in years because of the high carb content, but that was enough to make me think about some. And, bless her heart, Giada de Laurentiis did some ravioli with pesto and a combo meatloaf/eggplant thingy that made me yell at the TV–because that stupid eggplant ruins the meatloaf, Dawlin’.

What else did Giada make? Let’s put it this way–if someone brought this cake to an activity, and Giada was there, I’d move her (and anyone else) out of the way to get to it. Anything with chocolate and raspberry in the same place risks that outcome. Chocolate and raspberry together is just my absolute favorite thing. Except maybe in chili. Nigella Lawson also has a Chocolate-Raspberry Heart cake in her book Feast. Fortunately, I haven’t had either one, and I likely won’t, because I won’t be able to resist making it way too often. (I get chocolate-raspberry decaf coffee beans, though.)

So to offer some of my less dangerous comfort foods, let’s start with Bacon Tomato Hash from the lovely Nigella Lawson. Simple to make, and satisfies, even without the bread (which is how I eat it, naturally.) When she did this recipe on her show, she’s coming in from a night out, pads up the stairs in heels, and tosses her purse and very long pearlesque clip earrings on the kitchen counter before starting. I’d made this many times before, but a few years ago, I had a long Friday night and did the same thing, except I didn’t take off my very high-heeled shoes in the kitchen.

It was my birthday, and although I’d gone out to dinner with friends, it was nearly 1 am, it was chilly, and I was hungry. I thought, what’s open at 1 am? Whataburger and Wal-Mart, right in the same spot. Didn’t want a burger, because, after all, I’d had tortellini, my birthday indulgence. So I went into Wal-Mart and got bacon, tomatoes and fresh parsley, Unfortunately, I was dressed in a little black dress, high heels, and a fabulous evening poncho, so I garnered some very odd looks from a big, burly dude on a Harley. He never said a word, just watched me walk in, and watched me walk out to my car. I made it home safely, and had some of that hash and read the paper until about 3 am.

Three summers ago, I contracted some kind of funky flu bug that, I’m told, came back from Russia with some of the Shuttle people. Ugh. Two weeks I was sidelined, and *tried* to work from home. Thankfully, my boss was on travel and mostly gone, and I took care of stuff by phone. But I mean it, I had the whole bit–fever, fatigue, coughing, congestion. I had a boyfriend at the time, and wouldn’t let him come around because I didn’t want him getting sick, either. I’d just started growing basil, and kept telling myself I’d make pesto with it one day soon. Lucky me, Nigella came to the rescue again with this Pea Pesto Soup.. Now, I had a reason to make that pesto, and I’ve been making it ever since–just to make this soup all winter long. The picky boyfriend thought I was nuts, and then he got a taste of it and started asking for it. Naturally, I use the home made pesto, but if you want to buy it, get the stuff in the refrigerated case. It freezes well, and you can make four batches of soup with it.

That was also the week I also fell in love with Def Leppard all over again. Hey–if you were flat on your back with fever, to weak to move much and 45 pounds of cat sleeping on top of you in the middle of summer watching VH-1 Classic, you would too. But that’s another story.

I actually gave a jar of pesto as a last-minute birthday gift for a coworker when I got caught short one day. She loved it, and the soup recipe, too.

Yet another easy Nigella recipe (sorry, these are my favorites) is Pollo alla Cacciatora, which is a quick-and-dirty version of Chicken Cacciatore. I fell in love with Cannellini beans making this and a few other recipes, too. Speaking of which. . .yet another Nigella recipe–Steak with White Bean Mash! Had it just last night, and it too is from Nigella Express.

Ok, so what if you’re not a Food Network junkie? Well, this Yeast-Free Cupcake is good enough to satisfy anyone who likes cake, without the usual white-sugar-and-flour rush. I have a preference for Suzanne Somers’ Somersweet, but if you mess with the sweetener, you’ll have to try it and see how it works. I don’t know if agave syrup will work. This Yeast Free CoffeeCake is also good, but you’ll have to have garbanzo bean flour around. (Which, of course, I have–I think.) Haven’t made it in a while because I keep going to the cupcake recipe. Needless to  say, it’s good. And I’ve told you about the yummy, rich Yeast Free Brownies, which I have yet to get around to making again.

Lately I’ve taken to using my mandolin to thinly slice sweet potatoes, put them in a dish in the fridge and let them dry out, then put them in the small oven with some olive oil and salt and let them cook til they’re drier and crispy. That’s good, too. Since I have the convection setting on it, I like to speed things up a bit.

Now if you like salad, when I was working, my favorite Single Girl Payday Meal was a big steak salad. By that I mean I would get some salad things (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, sugar snap peas and whatever else looked good in produce that day) and a flat-iron steak. Kroger sells them in big long steaks, so that’s what I would get. Of course I wouldn’t eat the entire steak in one sitting, but I would cook the whole thing. So I get one of my big Tupperware eatin’ trays, arrange my salad, then make the dressing from one of Suzanne Somers’ books:

6 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T lemon or lime juice

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Put that in a blender (I like the immersion type) and emulsify it. Just that easy.

Now deal with the steak: I also use one of those hand-held mechanical tenderizers to go over it on both sides, then salt/pepper the beast. (If it doesn’t fit in your pan, cut it to size, or just cut it into your favorite size, pack and freeze the rest.) Get that pan screaming hot and throw some olive oil in it. Once it’s hot, put the steak in  and IMMEDIATELY turn down the heat to about medium, and let it cook, long as you like. When it’s no longer adhered to the pan, turn it. When it’s cooked where you want it, take it out and let it rest for five minutes or so. Then slice it up against the grain and top your salad with it. Salad dressing completes this masterpiece.

No, I do NOT use bottled dressing. Yuck. Make your own. You have a blender, don’t you? Just wash it really good when you’re done with it. Start with that recipe.

I have to say that flat iron steaks are my favorite, but I like other cuts, too. Yes, NY Strip steak, but also sirloin and chuck. I don’t know that I have a “least favorite cut of beef.”

Wait–yes I do. Beef tongue.

On that note, I’m going to bed.

Happy Dining!

Dinner tonight, kale and cannellini beans

Hi, again:

OK, I found something else to pass along–dinner. I had another “light” dish from the Everyday Food Light cookbook. This one is on page 329, Sausages with Kale and White Beans. (You can find the recipe online here.) I’ve never had kale before, but I have to say, cooked as long as it did, it’s not bad. I’ll try using kale again one day. At 99 cents for a large bunch, it’s certainly affordable.

I decided to pull two packets of sausages out of the freezer (the stuff I bought on sale recently), but they weren’t the same thing. One was turkey brats, the other was some chicken with sun-dried tomatoes and asiago, I think–the Market Pantry brand from Target. So when I finished, I split them up–each serving had one of each in it.

And, this is what it looks like when it’s done:

Sausages kale white beans

Pretty simple, just broiling the sausages in the countertop oven (you do have one, right?) and then cooking the kale on top the stove with garlic and a half cup of water until it’s wilted all the way down. Then toss in two tablespoons of white wine vinegar and a can of rinsed cannellini beans. It’s not haute cuisine, but it’s a pretty good dinner done in a half hour or so. Not bad.

I should also mention that I just LOVE cannellini beans. If you’re not familiar with them–and I wasn’t until a few years ago–they’re white kidney beans, frequently imported from Italy. One of my favorite ways to use them is in this amazingly delicious white bean mash. I’ve also used Great Northern or White Navy beans, but that’s only because I grabbed them by mistake. Those beans are OK, and they’ll work in this recipe, but. . .just not as good as cannellini.

A few years ago when I evacuated to New Orleans for Hurricane Ike, I brought two or three cans of cannellini beans with me so I could make another Everyday Food recipe for my friends. Why? Because you can’t *get* cannellini beans in New Orleans, at least, not that I could find. Then again, I didn’t do lots of grocery shopping, and didn’t feel like explaining myself to a demo lady who got mad at me because I know how to properly pronounce “gelato.”

This too, is an Everyday Food recipe that appeared in the Houston Chronicle on April 16, 2008. How do I know this? I kept the paper–because it’s never been in the magazine or on their website, darnit. But it’s SOOOOO good. This is the *salad* of enlightenment:

White-Bean and Olive Salad

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (Creole mustard is also really good in this)

Coarse salt and ground black pepper

2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil and mustard; season with salt and pepper. Add beans, onion and olives; toss to combine.

Happy Dining!

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